As we enter the winter of 2020, the coronavirus pandemic is continuing to have lifechanging effects on individuals, families, and societies across the globe. In recognising the significant impact of the pandemic on the personal and professional lives of healthcare workers, the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh is engaged in a COVID-19 archiving project to capture, preserve, and share the diverse stories of medical professionals during this challenging time in history.

Since the project began, the College has collected material including diaries, photographs, and written thoughts from medical practitioners. Throughout the autumn, we have also conducted oral history interviews allowing healthcare workers to reflect on their experiences in their own words. You can view many of these interviews now on our website.

The aim is to ensure that future generations, historians, and researchers will be able to access the voices of healthcare workers and gain an understanding of their experiences of living and working through the current global health crisis.

Fortnightly, you can find a featured, full-length oral history interview on our website. This is an opportunity to take an in-depth look into the unique experiences of the coronavirus pandemic as told by healthcare workers from a wide variety of medical professions. Our first featured interview is with Dr Manveer Rahi, a junior doctor at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh, working in colorectal surgery.   

Our website also features interview shorts and diary extracts which highlight prominent themes running through the stories of healthcare workers. In one of our shorts, consultant forensic psychiatrist, Dr John Crichton, talks about the effect of the coronavirus on existing stresses related to the provision of wellbeing support to medical practitioners:

“There needs to be a renegotiation with members of the medical profession – particularly in their hospital work - so that they are more supported in what they do.” Dr John Crichton.

 In another, acute medicine consultant, Dr Hadiza Gachi, describes treating seriously ill patients hospitalised with coronavirus and dealing with the devastating consequences of the disease:

“It was thought that maybe intubating them (coronavirus patients) and ventilating them would not the best for them because the outcomes were not great. (…) We could only maybe give them some non-invasive ventilation and they carried on for a few days and eventually they just went, it was just not working, and they just died. So, we had patients one after the other dying sometimes in a day.” Dr Hadiza Gachi

Other topics touched upon in our shorts include the availability of personal protective equipment, lockdown, public response to public health guidance, and the knock-on effect of the pandemic on the provision of care for non-coronavirus patients.

As the coronavirus pandemic will continue to have long-term and far reaching consequences for healthcare and the medical professionals who provide it, the College’s project to collect material is ongoing. If you work in healthcare and would like to share your story with us where please see our “Contribute Your Story” page for more details.  

Author: Samantha Walker, archive volunteer.

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